'Previous winners are big shots. I'm kind of surprised to be on that list'

October 27, 2006

Dermatology expert Irwin McLean, whose work on eczema has put him into the spotlight, has won €40,000

A Dundee University dermatology expert was savouring the sweet smell of success this week after winning his discipline's premier international award, sponsored by cosmetics company Chanel.

Irwin McLean, professor of human genetics, has won the €40,000 (£26,800) prize funded by Chanel and awarded by the French-based skin research institute, the Centre de Recherches et d'Investigations Epidermiques et Sensorielles.

Professor McLean said the CERIES was a basic science research centre whose work was not connected to the cosmetics industry. "Previous prizewinners are big shots in the dermatology field. I'm kind of surprised to be on that list," he said.

But Professor McLean and his 12-strong research group have been in the spotlight since March, when they discovered the gene that predisposes many Europeans to eczema and an associated form of asthma.

"Eczema is one of the biggest problems in dermatology, affecting something like 20 per cent of kids (in the UK)," he said. "(This research) will undoubtedly influence the development of better treatments."

Professor McLean, who took his BSc and PhD at Queen's University Belfast, came to Dundee as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Cancer Research Campaign cell structure research group. He was headhunted by Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, but was later coaxed back.

Dundee has one of the biggest centres in the world in skin biology research, with major funders including the Wellcome Trust and skin disease charity Debra.

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